Comments : Uttar Pradesh's decision to scrap Wakf boards in the state is a welcome move. As a matter of fact, there were no Wakfs in Arabia before the advent of Islam. During the Muslim rule of seven centuries (1206A.D to 1857A.D) Muslim rulers confiscated Hindu lands and properties and distributed among the followers of Islam. The term Wakf signifies the appropriation or dedication of property to charitable uses. The root of the institution lies in an exhortation by Prophet Muhammad for contribution to the waging of Jihad.
While charity might have been the original intention behind innovating the Wakf, the institution gradually grew into an instrument of securing a source of revenue for protecting and promoting Islam. The Oxford History of Islam, OUP, New York, 1999 characterizes Wakf as an Islamic source of revenue. In due course, Wakf developed into an instrument of aggression.
Professor Joseph Schacht of Columbia University in his book Introduction to Islamic Law has written: The Wakf is a good example of the composite nature of the raw material of Islamic law and of the qualitatively new character which its institutions acquired; the Wakf has one of its roots in the constribution to the holy war which Muhammad had incessantly demanded from his followers in Medina and another in the pious fundations (piae causae) of the Eastern Churches. The institution of Wakf was open to change as required by the place and time. Schacht goes on to observe that such changes have taken place in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Tranjordan, Egypt, Tunis, Algiers et al.
An essential feature of the Hanafi Wakf is the permanence of its purpose. The Privy Council (London) however held in 1894 that the ultimate reversion to the poor was illusory, and that this kind of family Wakf had to be treated as simple gift of inalienable life interests to remote unborn generations of descendents which were forbidden in Islamic law, and therefore, invalid. This created such dismay in India that the legislature had to step in and pass the Mussalman Wakf validating Act in 1913 and by another of 1930 made the Act (1913) as retroactive.
Professor Asaf A. A. Fyzee in his work Outlines of Muhammadan Law (1999) has written; The religious motive of Wakf is the origin of the legal fiction that Wakf property belongs to Almignty God; the economic ruin that it brings about is indicated by the significant phrase “The Dead Hand”. Wakf to some extent ameliorates poverty but it has its dark side. In India, instances of mismanagement of Wakfs, of the worthlessness of mutawallis (managers), and of the destruction of wakf property have often come before the courts. Considering all these matters, it can by no means be said that the institution of Wakf as a whole been an unmixed blessing to the community.
In India, the institution was used rather abused, for attracting and sustaining a feudal class in a conquered land. With the advent of Partition in 1947 and the creation of holy land for Muslims of India, the Wakf has become an eyesore of discrimination between one minority and rest of Indian people. When Princely states have been integrated into the national mainstream, the Zamidari and Jagirdari have been abolished, where then is the justification for perpetuating this parasitic institution of Wakf? The answer lies in abolishing it as was done in Egypt decades ago. The Government can take over the wakf properties after duly compensating the current beneficiaries.